The Supreme Court issued its Hobby Lobby decision two months ago amidst a firestorm of punditry. Some, such as the Christian Post, called the decision a victory for religious liberty; others, such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, called it a violation of religious liberty.
They can’t both be right, can they?
My initial thought was that the Samuel Alito-penned majority opinion got it right. This was astonishing – Alito! – but the logic seemed solid: This is the United States, after all. When someone starts a company, she should be free to run it the way she wants. She can’t be forced to offer an employee benefit she opposes. If prospective employees demand that benefit, they are free to work elsewhere.
Jonah Goldberg makes a nice analogy:
If I like to dress up as a character from Game of Thrones on weekends, pretending to fight snow zombies and treating my mutt like she’s a mystical direwolf, that’s none of my employer’s business. But if I ask my employer to pay for my trip to a Game of Thrones fan convention, I am asking him to make it his business. If my employer refuses, that may or may not be unfair, but it’s his right.
Yeah! You’re free to dress up like Robb Stark if you want but don’t expect my tax dollars to fund your weekend!
But wait a second. Health insurance is not Comic Con. Employers are not required by law to provide Game of Thrones convention tickets but they are required to provide health insurance or suffer consequences. You may disagree with that but it is the law.
Given that, this analogy seems more apt:
Automatic Attic, Hobby Lobby’s sister company, is owned by Christian Scientists who are opposed to modern medicine. They offer their employees health insurance that covers faith healing but little else. When challenged that the insurance they offer does not comply with the Affordable Care Act, they claim exemption from the provisions that require coverage for doctor visits and hospital stays and medicine on the grounds of religious freedom.
Laughable, no? Hobby Lobby is doing the same thing. The owners are imposing their religion on their employees. The Supreme Court said it’s O.K. but the First Amendment says otherwise.